Schools delay opening as case numbers rise

Jessica Westerman, left, a kindergarten teacher at St. Athanasius School, and Margie Reece, St. Athanasius principal, measured and arranged desks in a classroom to provide more space in between students in preparation for the new school year July 6. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville will delay their openings to at least the third week in August in response to Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation. (Record Photo by Jennifer Jenkins)

The number of COVID-19 cases in Kentucky have spiked in July. The commonwealth set a one-day record of new cases July 19 with 979 and reached a close second July 25 with 836 new infections.

With the increase in cases, Gov. Andy Beshear has called for an increase in caution. On Monday, July 27, he asked Kentucky schools to delay their openings to at least the third week in August.

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville — which had planned various start dates on or around Aug. 12 and later — are planning to heed the recommendation.

“In light of the concern about rising cases and the request to delay in-person instruction until the third week of August, Superintendent Leisa Schulz has consulted with school leaders, and schools will comply with this recommendation,” said a July 28 statement from Cecelia H. Price, chief communications officer for the archdiocese.

“Schools will communicate with families directly about their opening dates. A number of schools had already communicated opening dates in the third week and beyond.”

In late June, the archdiocese announced its plan for reopening, which includes distancing student desks, requiring masks when students and staff aren’t seated at a distance and other precautions that conform to state safety recommendations.

The archdiocese also announced plans July 28 for contact tracing, which would be used if a student or employee became infected with the coronavirus.

A memo to parish and school leaders lists newly established archdiocesan protocols for contact tracing. They will be used when a school or parish is notified that someone such as a priest, lay minister, support staff, teacher, or student has tested positive for COVID-19. Schools or parishes should:

Notify the pastor.

Notify the health department. If the health department has not already contacted you, a report should be made to the health department in your county.

Notify the archdiocese.

The memo says the local health department will “investigate the case, determine exposure risk and contact anyone determined to have been potentially impacted.”

The health department will also determine when it’s safe for the individual to return. Employees must have written clearance from the health department or a health care professional to return to work, the memo said.

The health department, the archdiocese and the parish will work together to decide “whether to close any facility or part of a facility,” the memo said.

The memo concluded, “We will continue to work with professionals at the Health Department and Civic Government to determine appropriate responses to this pandemic.”

As of The Record’s deadline, Kentucky had 28,126 cases of COVID-19, but that number has been growing steadily in the last several weeks. A total of 719 Kentuckians have died of the virus, according to the governor’s office.

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